28 March 2019

Tech Talk: Addressing Noise Issues with Gates Carbon Drive

The Gates Carbon Drive belt system is a great addition to any bike with an internal shifting system such as the Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, Shimano Alfine, and Nuvinci/Envilio internal gear hubs or Pinion gearbox. Unlike the chains used in traditional drivetrains, the Carbon Drive belt provides thousands of trouble free off-road miles and tens of thousands of reliable on-road miles, all without need for extensive cleaning or lubrication.

While they generally run nearly silent, belts occasionally squeak as they interact with the metal sprockets at either end of the drivetrain, which many riders find annoying. This is most likely to occur when the belt system is subject to dust or other fine particulates.

This type of dust is usually the culprit when belts start squeaking

At Cycle Monkey, we have had good luck using Rohloff’s biodegradable chain lube to combat this squeaking noise. Applying just a few drops of this thick, wet weather lube typically provides months of quiet riding in our dry Northern California climate, where frequent 8-9 month periods without precipitation lead to a progression from dusty to extremely dusty the further we get from the last rainfall.

In our travels around the country, the Rohloff chain lube has worked equally as well in other climates and riding conditions. Other thick/wet weather chain lubes could also be effective, but we have not yet tested any of them because of the reliable results of the Rohloff lube. Gates has tested the Rohloff lube to ensure that it does not cause any deterioration of the Carbon Drive belt.

You can order the Rohloff chain lube here.

Gates officially recommends the use of silicone spray to address belt noise. In our experience, these sprays eliminate noise in the short term, but do not provide the same long-term performance we’ve seen with the Rohloff chain lube. Results vary based on environmental conditions, but we typically need to re-apply the silicone spray every few weeks as opposed to months of quiet riding with the Rohloff lube.

It’s worth noting that use of the Rohloff chain lube does make the belt a little “dirty” compared to unlubed belts, which are completely clean to the touch. Use of silicone spray maintains the cleanliness of the belt, making it the preferred choice of the crew at Gates.

Astute readers of the Carbon Drive owners manual will note that on page 3, under the heading “Care for your Carbon Drive”, bullet point #4 says “Do not lubricate.” No need to worry—this recommendation is for regular use where no squeaking is present.

Here is the official response from Gates on the topic:

Gates does not require the use of any sort of lubricant on our belt drive system. We only present the option for extremely dry and dusty conditions to mitigate noise. The system is designed to function without any sort of added product on the parts for its lifespan. You could run the drive without touching it for thousands of miles, you may just get some noise in particular scenarios so in that sense, it is bomb proof, it just has its quirks. We do recommend regular cleaning of the drive in order to maximize the longevity of the belt and sprockets.

For those dry and dusty conditions with a fine powder particulate on the roads and trails, we suggest the use of this product: 


This will generally last several hundred miles in those conditions or until it is washed off.

A little dirty might mean a little squeaky, but the belt will still function properly in these conditions

If you are experiencing a squeaky belt drive when riding in dusty conditions, remember that it’s not indicative of a major problem with your drivetrain, even if the squeaking drives you crazy. And with a small amount of effort, you can set up your belt for quiet performance in any conditions. If you’re looking for the longest-lasting solution, Rohloff’s chain lube is the best option we know of. If you want to maintain the absolute cleanliness of an unlubed belt, opt for a silicon spray like that suggested by Gates. In a pinch, a blast of water from a water bottle will provide short term noise relief to help get you to the end of your ride.

If you want to stay up-to-date on our latest technical tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on Instagram and give us a like on Facebook.

22 March 2019

Tout Terrain Via Veneto w/ Pinion Gearbox & Gates Carbon Drive

This bright purple Tout Terrain Via Veneto was built for a customer in Alexandria, Virginia, who was looking for a reliable bike for weekday commutes into downtown DC that would also inspire her to take on more weekend adventures, and maybe even a few week-long tours.

With experience as a mountain biker, she understood the value of reliable drivetrain components, and recognized their extra importance as she sought to take on a new challenge with the world of bike touring.

Her partner had been touring and commuting on a Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub for quite some time, and suggested she consider internal gearing as the most reliable option for her new commuter. After she came across Cycle Monkey while searching for an internal gearing specialist, she reached out to discuss the options for a custom build.

German brand Tout Terrain seemed to fit the bill, with a strong reputation for reliability and utility and enough versatility to take on both daily chores and epic adventures. Pinion’s P1.18 gearbox was selected as the basis of the drivetrain thanks to its unparalleled gear range. A dynamo hub and lighting were included for worry-free year-round commuting, along with a USB charger for keeping electronics charged on the go.

Tout Terrain is often our first recommendation when customers approach Cycle Monkey asking for a versatile, internally-geared bike they can use for both touring and commuting. The touring-oriented brand’s lineup is full of steel frames designed to wear many different hats, and the Via Veneto at the heart of this build is no exception. For a complete guide to Tout Terrain's models, check out our buying guide.

In line with their design philosophy of building versatile bikes that are platforms for personalization, Tout Terrain offers a custom paint option that can accommodate virtually any request. You simply provide an RAL color sample to the factory, and they'll deliver a powder coat frame to match. Seeking something totally unique, this customer took full advantage of this option to get a frame that matched her favorite finger nail polish.

When Tout Terrain says they can match virtually any color you provide them, they mean it...
Optimized around fast-rolling 700c wheels and capable of receiving tires up to 42c wide, the Via Veneto features comfortable, natural geometry and an integrated rear rack. It’s an ideal choice for touring riders who also want to use their bike on a daily basis, and like all Tout Terrain models, it’s available with either the Rohloff SPEEDHUB or any of Pinion’s low-maintenance gearboxes. This particular customer preferred the aesthetic and feel of the Pinion’s central location at the bottom bracket, and wanted more gears than the 14 speeds provided by Rohloff's SPEEDHUB. 

Pinion's gearbox cleanly integrates at the bottom bracket for low, centralized weight distribution
Accordingly, she opted for Pinion’s widest-ranging option, the P1.18. With a 636% gear range spread over 18 speeds, the gearbox allows for easy climbing on the steepest grades, even with a full touring load. And like all internal drivetrains, shifting components are entirely encased within the gearbox, making them virtually impervious to the elements and minimizing maintenance. 

Internal gearing systems also open up the potential to run a belt drive system like those from Gates Carbon Drive. Belts are cleaner and quieter than chains, and they require no lubrication, which means no more messy hands. They also last 2-10x longer than chains (depending on application), and reduce wear on sprockets for a more durable complete drivetrain that rarely requires new components. Tout Terrain’s frames come standard with a split in the rear triangle for easy belt installation, making them an excellent choice for riders looking for a stock option that allows them to enjoy the benefits of Carbon Drive.

Gates Carbon Drive belts are an excellent option for internally geared bikes, which always maintain a straight driveline
As a daily commuter, accessories were selected to further the bike’s potential as a “grab and go” . The SON 28 dynamo hub employs a small electric generator to capture power from the front wheel, which is in turn used to power the Supernova lighting system and aftermarket USB charger. Dynamo hubs are an excellent solution for daily riders and bike tourers, because they ensure your lights and accessories continue working even if you don’t have access to a charger or simply forget to plug them in after a long day of riding.

Anyone riding daily on the Eastern Seaboard is sure to encounter wet roads from time to time, so the bike is equipped with low-profile front and rear fenders. Shimano‘s XT hydraulic disc brakes provide ample stopping power in the rain and on light dirt, with levers mounted to a wide flat bar that provides additional stability and ease of handling.

With cues taken from their mountain bike lineup, Shimano's XT Touring brakes inspire confidence in all conditions
Further comfort for long days in the saddle is achieved with an ultra-compliant saddle courtesy of Selle Anatomica. Despite the distinctly Italian name, this California-based brand produces high-end saddles with ergonomic cutouts in a variety of different materials, such as this one in classic black leather. Their saddles provide comfort straight out of the box with or without padded riding shorts, and give a sense of sitting in a hammock.

Schwalbe’s Marathon Racer tires provide a modest tread for those wetter days, with excellent rolling resistance and the lightest weight of any tire in the Marathon line. They are mounted to Ryde’s Andra 210 rims, a favorite of ours at Cycle Monkey for their reliable strength, modest weight, and approachable price point.

All said and done, we were able to work with this customer to build a low-maintenance, easy-go machine that’s made her daily trips around the DC metro area something to look forward to. We were thrilled to hear that she’s also taken the bike on a few tours!

If you’re looking for a custom build around an internal drivetrain, or want to discuss the potential of retrofitting an existing bike with a Rohloff hub or Gates Carbon Drive belt system, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. 

If you'd like to stay up-to-date with our latest blog posts and all things in the world of internally-geared bicycles, be sure to follow us on Instagram and give us a like on Facebook.

Build Details:

Frame: Tout Terrain Via Veneto/Metropolitan
Fork: Tout Terrain Steel
Headset: Chris King GripLock
Stem: Tout Terrain Black Label
Bar: Tout Terrain Black Label
Shifter: Pinion 18 spd Twist Shifter
Brakes: Shimano XT Touring
Brake Levers: Shimano XT
Grips: Tout Terrain Black Label
Front Light: Supernova E3 Pro 2
Rear Light: Supernova E3 TL 2 Rack-mounted Taillight
Seatpost: Tout Terrain Black Label
Saddle: Selle Anatomica
Front Hub: Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo
Rear Hub: American Classic
Skewers: Shimano XT
Spokes: Sapim Race
Nipples: Sapim Brass
Rims: Ryde Andra 210
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Race
Cranks: Pinion Hollow Forged
Pedals: Shimano DX SPD/Platform
Gearbox: Pinion P1.18
Sprockets: Gates Carbon Drive CDX
Belt: Gates Carbon Drive CDX

01 March 2019

Jones Plus 29+ Bikepacking Trail Bike w/ Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 and Gates Carbon Drive

This original-model Jones Bikes Plus (now called Plus LWB) is a great example of the possibility to convert an existing bike with derailleur(s) and chain to Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14 internal gear hub with Gates Carbon Drive belt. The customer—a local from Sonoma County—had been enjoying the original build for several years, riding off-road trails in Northern California in addition to taking on the occasional longer bikepacking trip. With all those off-road miles and associated shifting adjustments, the rider eventually grew tired of maintaining the 2x derailleur drivetrain and decided it was time to find a more reliable option.

He was also interested in installing wider tires, and the 2x, double-chainring setup originally installed on the bike didn't provide sufficient chain-tire clearance. 12-speed, 1x single-chainring drivetrains have become popular among mountain bikers and gravel riders in recent years, and the customer initially assumed these options were his best bet to maintain a wide gear range and gain the additional tire clearance he was looking for.

After he discovered Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 14-speed internal gear hub, however, he started to consider the benefits of an internal drivetrain. Further research into the SPEEDHUB 500/14 led him to explore the additional benefits of the Gates Carbon Drive belt drive system, and soon enough he reached out to us at Cycle Monkey to discuss options for installing both systems onto his Jones Plus.

The trifecta: Gates Carbon Drive belt, Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14, and some really, really voluminous tires!
The conversion started with removing all the components and bringing the frame to our local fabricator, where we had a tube splitter installed in the drive side chainstay. Most production derailleur-equipped bikes require such a modification to allow installation of a belt into the rear triangle (chains can be opened/closed with the link pins; belts are a closed loop). Because the Jones Plus frame includes an eccentric bottom bracket, which could be used to tension the belt, no additional frame modifications were necessary to accommodate the new drivetrain. The rear brake cable guides were also in a good position to piggyback the Rohloff shifter cables onto without needing to zip tie them to the frame or potentially adding additional braze-ons.

Look closely, and you'll see the frame split about midway through the chainstay. 

Steel has long been a favorite frame material of long-distance riders and bicycle tourers, thanks to a solid strength-to-weight ratio, approachable price point, comfortable ride, ease of repair (and modification) and classic appeal. This frame in particular is meant to be super comfortable and stable with long chainstays that put the rider in between the wheels, which is an excellent complement to the monster truck capabilities of the big 29+ wheels and high-volume tires. The bike also features a Jones Steel Truss Fork, which both reduces the bike’s overall weight, provides responsive, flex-free steering, and gives the front-end a unique look. Because the loads are triangulated, smaller and thinner tubes can be used on the fork without compromising strength while at the same time reducing flex during braking.

This truss fork almost gives the bike a chopper-esque look

Frame modifications complete, we were ready to install the new drivetrain. Internal drivetrains are beneficial to all types of riders, but they have some distinct advantages for the adventure-oriented off road crowd. There’s nothing worse than encountering a mechanical issue when you’re hours from the nearest town on day three of a bikepacking extravaganza. Because shifting components and most moving parts are enclosed within the hub shell away from the elements, internal gear hubs offer superior reliability in all conditions, which is an extra advantage for backcountry riders encountering mud, muck, and a swath of inclement weather conditions.

Rohloff’s SPEEDHUB 500/14 has a reputation as the most reliable internal gear hub available, and we’ve seen countless riders put tens of thousands of miles on their unit with no maintenance other than an annual oil change. This reliability means peace of mind on the trail, and fewer spare parts to lug around on your longest adventures.

Tube splitter installed in drive side chainstay for belt drive compatibility

Perhaps the most important benefit of all internal drivetrains, at least for mountain bikers, is that lack of external hardware hanging off the rear of the bike. Whether you opt for an internal gear hub like this one or a gearbox contained at the bottom bracket, they'll be no dangling derailleurs ready to be ripped off from an inconveniently-placed rock

Belt systems like this one from Gates Carbon Drive have gained a lot of popularity on urban commuter bikes, but they’re also well-suited to mountain biking and off-road use. They require no cleaning or lubrication, making them a favorite of long-range tourers, even after a particularly dusty or muddy ride. With a carbon drive belt system, the only dirt and grease on your hands will come from the trail, not from fussing with a messy chain.

The combination of a belt system with an internal gear hub also largely eliminates the potential for snapped or dropped chains, thanks to the additional durability of the belt itself and the fact that a straight drive line is constantly maintained (as on a singlespeed). 

Note the straight drive line—that belt's not coming off on bumpy trails

29+ wheels and tires offer extra traction and comfort for this otherwise rigid off-road machine, in addition to providing the incredible roll-over capabilities that only come with the biggest wheels. The build is finished off with a mix of durable components chosen by the manufacturer. We’re big fans of the Jones H-Bar seen on this build, which allows for a much wider range of hand positions that comes in handy when confronting hours or days-long rides on mixed surfaces.

Options, options, options...

We were thrilled to help this rider get even more durability and capability out of a beloved existing ride. In addition to ground-up custom bike and wheel builds, Cycle Monkey specializes in guiding riders through the retrofit process so that they can enjoy the benefits of internal shifting and belt drives on their favorite bike. If you’ve got a project in mind, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Build Details:

Frame: Jones Plus Steel
Fork: Jones Steel Truss Fork
Headset: Jones
Stem: Thomson X4
Bar: Jones Loop Bar
Shifter: Rohloff Twist Shifter
Brakes: Avid BB7
Brake Levers: Avid Speed Dial 7
Bar Tape: Cork
Seatpost: Thomson Elite
Saddle: WTB
Front Hub: Jones
Rear Hub: Rohloff SPEEDHUB 500/14
Skewers: Shimano XT
Spokes: Sapim Race
Nipples: Sapim Brass
Rims: WTB Scraper
Tires: Vee Speedster
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect
Pedals: Shimano XT Touring
Bottom Bracket: Surly
Sprockets: Gates Carbon Drive
Belt: Gates Carbon Drive